K: Kalispell, Montana

K: Kalispell, Montana

“If it hadn’t been for Grayson, reckon where I’d be….” TOM DOOLEY, by The Kingston Trio


If I hadn’t been fired from my first teaching job, or taken that plane ride, or gotten that telegram, we never would have met.

IF, suggests choices made on the spot, choices that are life changing. IF ONLY I had not done this or that would I still be back in wherever, or married to someone else and a much different person. The major decisions we make are blind choices, or forced choices, and the future is unknowable. In 1968 I’d barely heard of Bakersfield—it was hot—yet I chose to move here. Like many teachers I met in the 70’s, I planned to teach in Bakersfield and then move to the coast. What I had wanted was to teach in Kalispell MT, a beautiful city and less frozen than where I was then working. That means 10% less snow and 5 degrees warmer.

I foolishly agreed to coach wrestling in Eureka MT and got fired for my efforts. The administration never stepped inside my classroom, but I’d screwed up coaching. Lesson 1: have experience in wrestling before coaching.

My first plane ride was from Kalispell to Spokane WA for an education conference to interview school districts from California to Washington state plus Hawaii. From more than 20 interviews I had been offered a job in Los Angeles and Hawaii. The first offered a good salary and the worst of all possible lotteries for job site. The second offered a great location, even free housing on the most southern site in the United States. The glitch was I would plunge into poverty and debt, have to take summer classes and then get me, and my car, to Hawaii. So I really wanted that job in Kalispell where at least I knew some people. The Kalispell interview went well but I was a slow learner. The job was for junior high and coaching WRESTLING.


Kern High School District sent the BHS principal and we had a good interview. I was relaxed, the salary was better than Eureka’s and I had those offers from LA and Honolulu in my pocket. Two weeks later I got a telegram from Bakersfield offering a job in Shafter. I replied, YES. Opportunity, choice, and an unknowable future: all the elements for a good drama. Two days later Kalispell called and offered me the job.


Had I not come to Bakersfield so much would be different and I never would have met Linda or joined Writers of Kern. At 23 I never could have planned this—never even thought of retirement.

Linda and I stayed in Kalispell on our honeymoon, and again 20 years later. A nice place on the shore of Flathead Lake, and snow covered all winter.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mandy Wallace
    Oct 22, 2014 @ 23:19:40

    It’s things like this that make you realize how much opportunity there is everywhere. If not here, then somewhere else. If not her, then someone else. If not one job, then another. It lends credibility to the idea that the process and the journey really are what matter. That the rest is just so much detail.

    Thanks for this.



  2. heyannis
    Oct 28, 2014 @ 15:16:22

    Kalispell’s loss was our gain. I’m grateful. xoA



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